Market demand for millions

A new report from Chinese tech giant Tencent said that there are only 300,000 “AI researchers and practitioners” worldwide, but the “market demand” is for millions of roles.

The report confirms what tech giants have been complaining about - apparently an AI engineer can demand a high salary for her or his skills. Those with a few years’ experience can expect base pay of between $300,000 and $500,000 while the very best can collect millions.

One independent AI lab said that there were only 10,000 individuals worldwide with the right skills to spearhead serious new AI projects.

Tencent’s new “2017 Global AI Talent White Paper” suggests the bottleneck here is education. It estimates that 200,000 of the 300,000 active researchers are already employed in various industries - not just tech - while the remaining 100,000 are still studying.

Attendance in machine learning and AI courses has rocketed in recent years, as has enrollment in online courses, but there is obviously a lag as individuals complete their education.

The report also speculates about the global competition to develop and deploy AI skilled. Experts in the US warning that America is falling behind rivals like China in the so-called global AI race.

The report itself identifies the US, China, Japan, and UK as key players, with Israel and Canada also warranting mentions. Canada, it says, has strong educational background (which has attracted many big companies to launch research labs there), while the UK is best on the “ethical and legal aspects” of AI, and Japan takes the lead in robotics.

The US is currently “far ahead” in terms of global talent, with more universities teaching machine learning and related subjects than any other nation, and more AI startups. The downside is that the US education system only teaches the rich (or the poor on sporting scholarships) who are not always the most intelligent nor the most numerous.

This means that eventually the US will eventually lose its lead to China.